Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Holidays Approacheth

My first loot

If you look to the right, you'll see that I'm reading a book about the National Lampoon, a once-great humor magazine. (Aside from MAD, do we even have humor magazines any more?) I have a soft spot for the NatLamp folks because I made my first money from any sort of media enterprise from them. I still have the check stub, all these years later. They didn't pay me much, but money didn't matter then. The fact that they were willing to give me money for something I did...woohoo! The greed came later, after I'd become a calloused veteran of radio and TV.

Creepy books for kids

Hey, it's easy to buy cutesy books for kids. They're everywhere! But what if you have a child who is...shall we say, different? Hah! You've come to the right place, and just in time for your holiday shopping.

For starters, we have Ryan Heshka's ABC SPOOKSHOW. Says Amazon, this alphabet book "brings together weird words and creepy characters to create one devilishly entertaining alphabet book. A Witch stirs her cauldron, casting evil spells, while a pig moans in pain from too much Yucky candy. A Quagmire monster rises from the dead while an Unlucky black cat lies squashed and still, the last of its nine lives gone.

What creepy youngster wouldn't want to have this book under the Christmas tree, or Festivus pole, or Voodoo candle, whatever you have. Come to think of it, I might get this book for myself.

How about this one: A COME RINOCERONTE/A IS FOR
RHINOCEROS by Harriett Russell. Last Gasp says this is the follow-up to Harriet's "utterly pointless counting book." That might be a good thing and it might not. Don't bother looking for this one is your local book store. It probably won't be there.

Also, I don't think there's an A in rhinoceros. If there is, it's very well hidden.

Here's one I read when I first became interested in children's literature: LIZARD MUSIC by D. Manus Pinkwater. I don't remember anything about the plot except I thought it was dumb. What I do remember is that the main character, a 12-year-old boy, was obsessed with Walter Cronkite, the old CBS News anchorman. He was often called "the most trusted man in America." Cronkite, that is, not the 12-year-old kid.

Thing is, it's pretty weird for a kid to be obsessed with Uncle Walter. Also, I don't remember that having anything to do with the plot. It's not Cronkite came in waving a couple of .357 Magnums and blew away the evil space lizards, or whatever they were.

The other thing I remember about this book was that it contains a single paragraph that spans three pages. Really.

I will leave off with a classic, THE GASHLYCRUMB TINIES by Edward Gorey. A is for Amy who fell down the stairs. B is for Basil assaulted by bears. C is for Clara who wasted away. D is for Desmond thrown out of a sleigh...well, you get the point.

Gorey is the master of creepiness, but it's a good kind of creepy, you know? All aspiring children's authors should read Gorey. You will not find one weird mention of Walter Cronkite in any of his books, nor will you find Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Cameron Swayze, or Wolf Blitzer for that matter.

If you know of any creepy children's books, send 'em in so we can add to the list. Don't be stingy.

Also, if a bookstore near you has an angel tree, I hope you'll think of children who might not have such a great Christmas. It doesn't have to cost much and it would mean a lot to the kids. It doesn't even have to be a Christmas thing. It's all about the spirit of the season, whatever you happen to be into.

And while we're on the subject of weird stuff, here's a picture of a goat on a trampoline. Just because.

Email of the day

Dear Dr. Missy,

I have been invited to attend a book signing in a woman's home. Isn't this unusual? I thought book signings were always in public places.

Linda (my real name is Sharon)

Dear Linda,

I was once invited to a booksigning in an alley in a bad section of town. I arrived at midnight as requested, a handful of books under my arm, only to find myself under attack by a quartet of ninjas. Dressed all in black, with only their hate-filled eyes showing from their hoods, they sprang from their perches along the alley walls, shrieking their ninja battle cry. I knew at once this could only be the work of my next door neighbor, Mr. Bushida, in retaliation for those unfortunate incidents that have occurred since I moved into the neighborhood.

It's not like I don't apologize. I said I was sorry for bringing home a panther from the zoo, and even sorrier that it got into Mr. Bushida's house and did those awful things to his aunt and uncle and his poodle or whatever it was. I'm sorry about blowing up his bird bath, and I'm sorry about the spear gun accident. What else can I say?

None of that mattered in the alley. Luckily, ninjas are nothing new to me. I dispatched the first one with a garbage can lid to the face. The second got a shot of mace up his nose. The third whizzed a throwing star past my ear; I responded with a cellphone to the temple. That left the fourth, brandishing a knife in each hand as we circled each other slowly in the blackness of that alley. He lunged, but I dodged the attack. He didn't know it, not yet, but he was mine.

As he danced around me, I grabbed one of my books. What the poor ninja didn't know was that I am a master of Bookku Hai, the art of books as weapons. I held the book in a certain way only a few people have mastered and flicked my wrist, sending the book on its mission of doom. The poor ninja could only watch as the pages made hundreds of paper cuts on his body. Bleeding badly, he dropped to his knees and screamed in agony.

I walked away whistling the theme from the Patty Duke Show, but I knew Mr. Bushida lurked nearby, anguishing over the failure of his plan. I also knew that we would meet again, and he would unleash something much more deadly than ninjas on me.

Since then, I don't go to book signings in alleys. I hope you'll do the same. Or not do the same, however that works out.

Your friend,
Dr. Missy

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Search for Meaning In an Existential Context

Hunter S. Thompson book signing (of sorts)

Okay, in 1993 this college professor loads his students in two buses and they go on a literary tour of America. They read Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and visited Whitman's grave in Camden, New Jersey. They read John Steinbeck and toured his museum in Salinas, Kansas. Then they made it to Colorado while reading Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.

The professor decided to contact Thompson to see if he would meet with his students. Thompson agreed, and arrived at a bar in Woody Creek, where he drank and played pool with the students. Then Thompson took some of the students to his home, Owl Farm. There, he made the students line up, each clutching a copy of Fear and Loathing. Instead of autographing their books, Thompson pulled out a gun and shot a hole in each one.

Is that cool or what? I would love to have a Thompson book personally shot by the author. Alas, he is gone. Thompson's remains were loaded into fireworks canisters and exploded over Owl Farm. He is now probably working on Fear and Loathing In Heaven.


From Billboard Magazine: The rapper sometimes known as C-Murder will be tried a second time on a second-degree murder charge.

Here's my thinking. If you're going to be a rapper/murderer, you should probably pick a better name than C-Murder. It's a dead giveaway (pun intended). Makes things easier for the police, too.

Cop #1: Looks like we've got a rapper murder here. You think it was a DJ PuppyKisses?
Cop #2: Nah. What about MC FloralScent?
Cop #1: No way. Hey, what about that other guy, C-Murder?
Cop #2: That's our man. I'll get the warrant. You get the Taser.


There's an author, Will Leitch, who wrote a pretty good YA book, Catch, about his hometown, Mattoon, Illinois. I enjoyed it, though I don't often read slice of life books. (I like stuff to blow up, you know?) Thing is, it was weird reading about Mattoon, since I grew up there too. Leitch put in all the streets I know, the local landmarks, even a couple of people I remember. There was something odd about reading a story about a place I know so well.

On the other hand, I can't think of anything interesting to say about Mattoon. U.S. Grant took command of his first troops there. Many sociology textbooks mention the Mad Gasser of Mattoon, who likely didn't exist but managed to cause mass hysteria during World War II anyway. And, um, dang. Not much else to talk about.

On the other, other hand, if you get on I-57 and drive 15 miles north, you run into Arcola, with a population around 2,700. It's a weird place. The locals call it "Amazing Arcola."

First, Arcola was, until fairly recently, home to the French Embassy, the only four-star French restaurant and bowling alley in the world. When I say four-star, I'm not kidding. Gourmands from everywhere came to eat at the French Embassy. Fantastic food, but très cher, as them French folk would say. Still, after eating a gourmet meal, what better way to burn a few calories by strolling across the hall and bowling a few lines?

Arcola also claims to be the "Broom Corn Capital of the World." This would appear to be a Good Thing, except I don't know what broom corn is for. Apparently they make brooms with it, but wouldn't any sort of corn do the job? Besides, I always thought brooms were made of straw. It looks like straw.

In addition to the broom corn thing, Arcola also has an Amish Interpretive Center. There are a lot of Amish near Arcola. You can tell because there's horse doody on the streets and sometimes on the sidewalk, so watch where you step!

I've talked to Amish people plenty of times and I don't need an interpreter. "Get thee off my land, spawn of satan," they tell me. I wish I had a nickel for every time I've heard that!

Hey, we're not done yet! Arcola is also the home of Johnny Gruelle. He's the guy who invented Raggedy Ann and Andy. Matter of fact, Raggedy Andy was installed in the Toy Hall of Fame last month. I don't know why he didn't go in with Raggedy Ann a few years ago. It's the same doll! Okay, they wore different clothes but that's about it. It's not like they are anatomically correct or anything.

I wonder if they had a pet dog, Raggedy Spot, or Raggedy Creepy Stepdad, or Raggedy Weird Uncle Lou. Nah. Too edgy. Anyway, there's a Raggedy Ann museum in Arcola, probably full of Raggedy stuff.

There can't possibly be any more going on in Arcola, you say. Hah! Arcola is home to the Lawn Rangers, the world's only precision lawn mower drill team, as far as they know. It's a bunch guys wearing cowboy hats and carrying brooms while pushing decrepit and oddly painted lawn mowers, and yet they've marched in the Holiday Bowl parade, the Fiesta Bowl parade, the Indianapolis 500 parade, and the NFL Hall of Fame Game parade. Author/columnist Dave Barry was so enthralled with the Lawn Rangers that he came up to march with them, and he's written several columns about them.

You think we're done, don't you? Arcola has only 2700 people. How could there be more? And yet, there is.

How about the world's only Hippie Memorial? Right in the middle of Arcola it sits. It was created by the Bob Moomaw, who was "Arcola's town crank" according to Roadside America. Bob walked a different path than most, and he created a monument sixty-two feet long to remember hippies and others who cherish freedom. Now Bob is gone but the Hippie Memorial remains.

Maybe Bob was a crank. After all, he decorated a building he owned with such messages as: "America you're turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!" Crank or not, Bob was all about freedom, and that's a message too important to forget.

Remember, when you plan your next vacation, think Amazing Arcola!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Assorted fruits and nuts

Well, I haven't been around for a while. Sometimes life gets in the way of writing, even if it's just scribbling stuff in a blog. Here's some bits and pieces of thoughts rattling around in my head.

Thing 2

have two sons, otherwise known as Thing 1 and Thing 2. I found the caricature of myself and Thing 2 whilst cleaning out a closet. Lord knows how old it is. I'm pretty sure neither of us actually look like that. No one yells and faints when we go out in public. Not often, anyway.

The closet also produced a small mountain of board games, a half ton of sports equipment, a complete collection of Hogan's Heroes action figures, several RC vehicles, an ancient VHS camcorder, a huge reel of 2-inch quadruplex videotape that probably holds an old Mike Douglas Show, dozens of fast food toys still sealed in their bags, and a production cel from a 1942 Bugs Bunny cartoon, amongst millions of other items. I don't know how I got it all shoved back in there but I did. You never know when you'll need video of Mike Douglas or a Hello Kitty mini-hairbrush set.

S. King sells books

During one of the Red Sox playoff games a reporter found Stephen King sitting in a seat close to the field. The reporter pointed at a book King held on his lap, and King allowed as to how he reads a couple of pages between innings. Then the reporter asked one of the dumbest questions I've ever heard: "So, are you reading one of your own books?"

"Are you freakin' moron?" King yelled. He smashed the reporter in the face with the book and poured a cup of beer over the reporter's unconscious body. Then he tore off his shirt and launched into a jerky victory dance while the crowd roared in approval and showered the reporter with batteries, ice cubes, and a dead octopus thrown by a confused Philadelphia Flyers fan.

Okay, that didn't happen. Instead, King forced a grin at the stupid question and said it wouldn't be any fun to read one of his own books because he already knew how they ended. He then revealed that the book was The Ghost by Robert Harris.
I immediately rushed to Amazon and found that the book ranked 3,987. Not for long, I told myself. An hour later, The Ghost had moved up 1,500 spots and stayed there for quite some time. Not bad for a brief mention during a baseball game.

Thing 1

Thing 1 is a high school senior and seems to have inherited some of my odder genes, which he demonstrates from time to time. Last week we walked past Jimmy John's, a rapidly growing sandwich chain that started here. The food is okay, nothing I'd go out of my way to eat, but my sons can't get enough of the place. Anyway, we had this conversation:

Me: There's your idol, Jimmy John.

Thing 1: Yes...I must kill Jimmy John and drain his essence. Then I will become Jimmy John.
Me: Uh, sweetie, are you feeling okay?
Thing 1: Bwahahahahaaaa!

Me: Well, okay then.

I blame those Lord of the Rings movies. The kid is obsessed with them. Or maybe it's video games. He was playing one the other day and someone kept yelling "The leg has been taken!" followed by a burst of gunfire. That's what it sounded like.

When I was his age, all I had was a Pong, and I had to walk uphill through a snowstorm in order to play it. When I tell my sons this story, they shudder in horror, and I when I go on to tell them we only had six TV channels, they turn white and start foaming at the mouth. "Who could live such a hellish existence?" they wail. If I'm in a particularly evil mood, I remind them that there were no personal computers and no iTunes either. "No! No! Stop the madness!" they scream, running in circles with their hands over their ears.

Today Thing 1 took my advice and went out to play in the fresh air. Two hours later he was in the emergency room with a broken arm. He may have to get surgery to repair the break--we won't know until Monday. In retrospect, I should probably have kept my mouth shut about the fresh air deal.


I received an invitation to join the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association. It's got my name on it and everything. Trouble is, I'm pretty sure I was never a major league baseball player. Maybe the MLBPAA heard that I have a pink bat, one of the bats used by some players on Mother's Day in support of breast cancer research. My pink bat is leaning in a corner of my office, ready to use in case a horde of thugs break into the house. You never know.

Email of the day:

Dear Dr. Missy,

I'm writing an exciting middle-grade novel that takes place at Disneyland. (My husband read a few pages and said, "Honey, this is a thrillfest!") Well, I just finished an exciting scene that takes place in the It's a Small World ride. My main characters, a girl named Becky and a boy from some awful foreign country (my husband says I need a foreign kid to lock in good overseas sales) are being chased through It's a Small World by a group of exciting evil people and such--my heart beat a million times a minute just from writing it!

Well, imagine my surprise the next morning when a large group of Disney attorneys and several sheriff's deputies arrived with a cease-and-desist order. They said I can't mention It's a Small World in my exciting novel! Is that horrible or what?! (My husband said it stinks. Actually, he said something I can't repeat but you get the idea.)

What am I to do? How did the Disney people know what I had written?

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

I wouldn't fight Disney. Not unless you can unleash a strong artillery barrage to soften up the Disney forces and then send in a squadron of well-trained rangers to make the initial thrust into the enemy's right flank, making sure you keep an additional squadron in reserve in case the Disney troops prove to be resilient. You will also want to arrange for close air support, and if you have the resources, secure a battalion of paratroopers who will jump behind the Disney front lines and attack from the rear in a pincer movement with mortars and automatic weapons.

Hmm. Maybe I've been reading too many WWII books lately. You know, you don't have to use the It's a Small World ride in your story. How about:

It's a World of Vaguely Indefinable Yet Irritating Smells

It's a Slightly Smaller Than Normal World
It's an Eternally Long and Boring Ride World
It's a World with Disgusting Things Floating In the Water that Might Give Us Dysentary World

As far as how Disney knew about your story, I take it you haven't seen Tron yet. You know, the movie with the tiny people running around in computers? Get a copy now and study it thoroughly!

Dr. Missy

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Search for Guests Is On!

Harsh review

I ran across this on Amazon. It's a review of the John Steinbeck novel The Pearl by a student forced to read it for class. Says she: "Dumb. Short. Kills off people. Retarded ending."

Well, at least it's short. Here's what the same student had to say about To Kill a Mockingbird: "Long. Boring. Kills off whole reason for book."

To sum up, if you want to be a successful author, don't write books that are long, short, boring, retarded, or kill off anything.

A Challenge

I know a fair number of children's authors and I thought it would be fun to have one or more of them make a guest appearance on this blog. Trouble is, I'm horribly sensitive. What if I asked an author and she said something like, "Stick it in your piehole, loser!"

That would make me feel very bad.

So, I'm going to be tricky. I'll guilt an author into appearing here. My first victim is Ruth Barshaw, author of the newly-released middle-grade novel, Ellie McDoodle, published by the fine folks at Bloomsbury. I ordered up a copy as soon as it came out and I have to say that it's terrific. Did I mention that Ruth is an artist? Okay, she is, so Ellie McDoodle not only contains a fair number of words, it contains many pictures, all of them drawn by Ruth herself. You knew that the book is an illustrated diary kept by Ellie, right? Okay, it is, so now you know.

In fact, if you happen to have spawn of both genders, you could buy Ellie McDoodle and Diary of a Wimpy Kid (mentioned here last week), and then you've got an illustrated diary from a boy perspective and one from a girl perspective. I'll let you figure out which is which because I don't want to take all the mystery out of your life or anything.

My spawn are both boys. My mother once gave them Barbies for some strange reason. An hour later, both Barbies had been decapitated and the heads buried somewhere on a golf course. The bodies were given to the family dog, which chewed them for a while and then threw up on the carpet.

Back to Ruth's book. Ellie McDoodle (played by the late David Janssen) is a pediatrician who gets in a horrible fight with her wife (played by Zsa Zsa Gabor or somebody) and storms out of the house. When Ellie returns, she sees a one-armed man (played by a guy whose name I can't remember) running out of her home. When Ellie goes inside, she finds that her wife is dead.

"Why, that rotten one-armed man killed my wife!" Ellie says. "Nuh uh," says Lt. Gerard (played by that one guy with wavy hair). "You did it. I'm taking you in."

"Nuts to that," Ellie says, but she is put on trial, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Then she's on a train on her way to get executed and the train crashes and Ellie gets away. All of the episodes that follow are about Ellie trying to find the one-armed man while staying out of the clutches of Lt. Gerard. At the end, Ellie finds the one-armed man on a roller coaster or Ferris wheel and is finally cleared of the murder charges.

Oh. I seem to have strayed into describing the plot of The Fugitive, which ran on TV for four seasons back in the sixties. Make no mistake, it was a great show, although I never watched it much since I was really little at the time. I liked cartoons and stuff. And Hogan's Heroes. Now that was an awesome show. Did you know that Robert Clary (who played LeBeau) was actually in a German concentration camp? I met him once and he showed me the numbers tattooed on his forearm. McHale's Navy was also great. I just bought the season one set. Can't wait to watch it!

Dang, I've strayed again. I guess Ruth Barshaw will have to make a guest appearance on the next issue of this blog and straighten it all out. Heh.

Email of the day

Dear Dr. Missy,

I want to write a Christmas story for children. Should I write it now or wait until it's really Christmastime?

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

Don't wait until Christmas! Even though it's nearly June, publishers are hard at work right now preparing holiday books. As a matter of fact, I'm working on a Christmas picture book. Check it out:

"There is time yet for you to be saved, Ebenezer Scrooge." Jacob Marley rattled the heavy chains that bound him. "You must not suffer my fate!"

"You know," Scrooge said, "I've been giving that some thought. I am a bloody creep. I'm going to do something good for a change."

"You will be visited by three spirits, Ebenezer--" Marley stopped and stared. "What did you just say?"

"I said, Jacob, my old friend, that I'm going to quit being such a relentless jerk. I'm going out first thing and donate a huge sack of money to the workhouse. Good idea, huh?"

"No. I mean, yes, The thing is, we've got these three spirits who are going to visit you this night, The ghost of Christmas Past, the ghost of Christmas Present--"

"Ah! Christmas present! Speaking of presents, I realize you're dead, Jacob, but how about a nice pair of bolt cutters to get rid of those idiotic chains? You shall have the finest pair of bolt cutters in London, silver plated with a knob on the handle!"

"Sounds wonderful, Ebenezer, but we've gone to a lot of trouble to have these spirits visit you. You don't know how much paperwork is involved. If they show up and you've already been redeemed, there will absolute hell to pay!"

"No problem, dear Jacob. Have your spirit friends come on over. We'll lay on a gigantic spread-- roast ham, sweet potatoes, a turkey or two, some stuffing..."

"It's a lovely thought, Ebenezer, really it is. But these spririts are dead as doornails. They can't eat."

"Hmmm. That is a problem. I say, Marley, what does it mean, anyway?"

"What does life mean?" Marley asked hopefully. "See, that's where the spirits would be very handy. They could explain--"

"No, not that rot. 'Dead as a doornail'. It really makes no sense. Doornails are inanimate objects, old boy. If they had been alive at one point and then died, it might make sense. I think I'll buy a doornail factory and donate all the profits to the poor. Splendid idea!"

"Um, before you do that, do you think you could go out and kick a few orphans around, just for old times sake? The spirits would like that, it would make them feel like they had a real rotter on their hands."

"Good heavens, no! Those poor children. Well, we will soon set things right for them. While I'm at it, I've heard tell of a wonderful new doctor. I'll bet he could cure Tiny Tim. If anyone deserves to live a long, healthy life, it's that boy!"

"It won't do! It's simply won't do!" Marley's face twisted in anger. "You bloody fool! I went to a lot of time and trouble to get those spirits here, and you decide to turn into some goody-goody before they even arrive! Where's the Ebenezer Scrooge I knew and feared? Where is that heartless old coot who was despised by all?"

"Gone forever, Jacob. You have shown me the light, and I thank you for it. From now on, the name of Ebenezer Scrooge will be synonymous with good deeds and generosity. I'll think I'll go out and--"

Marley brought down the fireplace poker savagely on Scrooge's head. "I'm not getting into trouble with those spirits just because you won't cooperate. I'll just tell them you died. And you just did." Dragging his chains behind him, Marley trudged to the door. "It would have been better if I'd gone straight to hell. Damned do-gooders...."

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Letters, we get letters


My last blog entry generated a lot of traffic. I'm fairly stunned. Unfortunately, I don't go leaping out of trees all that often (once so far) so I fear this one will be a letdown. I am working on a post recounting my adventure when I got into a fistfight with a Kodiak bear. That didn't happen, but I figure I have to keep the excitement level up.

In the meantime, since I haven't been talking that much about books lately, here's this:

Book I'm currently reading: Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks (No verdict yet from this reviewer.)

Book I'm reading because it will probably do me some good: Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard (He makes a lot of good points so far.)

Book I just finished reading: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney (More middle grade books should be like this!)

Book I tried to find at B&N the other night but failed and had to order from Amazon: Ellie MacDoodle by Ruth Barshaw. (Ruth is a pal but she's awesome and a great artist, so check out this book and see if you don't agree.)

Book I didn't finish but will probably get to later: Martyn Pig by Kevin Brooks (Kinda morose for my taste.)

Book I bought because it has a really cool title: Dead Egotistical Morons by Mark Richard Zubro (Come on! It's a great title! Who cares what the book is about!)

Book with a cover featuring the author holding a bloody sand wedge: Alice Cooper...Golf Monster (Okay, I am a huge Alice fan and have been since forever.)

Book I'm saving because I know I'm going to love it: Moving Pictures by Terry Pratchett

I have fun playing with Amazon's "Recommended for you" function. I'm trying hard to teach it what I like but it still comes up with some weird suggestions, like this one author who I think is The Worst Author In the Whole World. I'd say her name but I'd probably get yelled at.

Anyway, Amazon keeps recommending Rules by Cynthia Lord, which was a recent Newbery Honor Book. Every time I saw Cynthia's name it rang a bell but I couldn't figure out why. Yesterday I couldn't stand it anymore and typed her name into my email search box. Up popped three emails from Cynthia in 2001, when I first joined the Children's Writers list. I had no idea if I could write fiction and felt terribly insecure hanging out with a lot of published authors, but Cynthia's emails were full of compliments and encouragement. She had been reading my weird and often lengthy posts to CW and could not have been nicer.

So, I am happy that Cynthia has gone on to bigger and better things. You rock, Cynthia!

Speaking of winners, Linda Sue Park was a CW member when she won the Newbery medal for A Single Shard. In honor of the occasion, I composed the following:

Top Ten Perks of Winning the Newbery Medal:

10. One free trip to the salad bar at participating Red Lobsters

9. A metric ton of bookmarks delivered to your front door

8. Able to trash hotel rooms on world book tour and get away with it

7. Make an appearance in a WWF match as "The Iron Scribe," and the script guarantees at least one opportunity to smash Stone Cold Steve Austin over the head with a folding chair

6. Can force publisher to release anything you've written, even if it's a five volume set on the life of your favorite Teletubby, Tinky Winky

5. A free t-shirt from the Gap with the Gap logo crossed out and "Newbery Winner" written underneath

4. Mattel releases a Newbery winner action figure. Okay, so it just sits there and stares at a computer--do you have your own action figure? Hah!

3. That kid in grade school who teased you about being a bookworm? Snap your fingers and he ends up in a Jersey landfill

2. Not one, not two, but THREE bags of peanuts on every airline flight

1. Free use of the Batmobile for one year

Despite her life being turned upside-down by the Newbery win, Linda Sue immediately wrote me a nice note, which was cool. I heard she has her own version of a Top Ten list that she does at personal appearances, which is even cooler.

If you are a Newbery winner and would like to write me a nice email, please respond to this blog. I will consider other award-winning authors but it's really the big-time awards that count.

Today's email:

Dear Dr. Missy,

Why does it take so darned long to hear back from editors? I hate this!

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

Truth is, the editors are hiding a horrible secret: the publishing industry is suffering from a terrible zombie problem. This problem manifests itself in several ways. For example, say you send a manuscript to an editor and never hear back. The chances are good that the editor has been attacked by zombies, who have eaten her spine. The zombies have also shown a penchant for stealing mail. What they do with it is not known, but over the past two years, there have been an alarming number of zombie attacks on the mailrooms of major publishers. Not only do they relieve the mailroom workers of their spines, they carry off huge piles of manuscripts, hiding them in the New York City sewer system, where they are shredded by mutant alligators.

If you are worried about your manuscript, I urge you to call the editor. "I know about the mail-stealing zombies!" you should yell into the phone. "I know they are eating spines and feeding manuscripts to sewer alligators! Stop this whitewash of a major problem! The public deserves to know what is going on! Act now before the zombie problem spirals completely out of control!"

The editor will, of course, hang up on you. They don't want this horrible news getting out, but if enough of you call, they will realize that it's time to come clean.

Dr. Missy

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Facing your fears

The things we do...

I recently went out to Utah to visit my son at his school. It was a Parent's Weekend sort of thing and at one point they decided it would be nifty if we all went out and did dangerous stuff. Part of this included walking on wire, which is tough on the tootsies if you're wearing sneakers like I was. Also, walking on wire is hard!

The worst bit, however, was when my son climbed 55 feet up a tree, stood on a dinky platform, and jumped off. Oh, he had a harness on, but the harness was held by a woman who looked way too small for the job. Needless to say, my son, being a teenager, figures he's indestructible and loved every second.

Then it was my turn. My chance to bond with my son and show I could something that goes against my nature. Did I mention that I have vertigo? Did I mention I've never climbed a tree in my life? Heights are hard! As the picture of me and my butt clearly shows, I did make the climb:

And here's me hugging the hell out of the tree once I got on the platform:

What you don't see, just above the top center of the picture, is an iron ring. I was supposed to stand on the platform, think of a goal I wanted to accomplish, and then hurl myself out to grab the ring.

It's been more than two weeks now, and I still don't have the words to explain how I felt, standing there staring at that ring. I've never had that feeling before and I'm pretty sure I don't want to have it again. Maybe it was plain ol' raw fear. It was some kind of powerful, as they say around here.

Despite that, I lurched off the platform, flew for a dozen feet or so, and snagged the ring. Then the harness thing malfunctioned and I plummeted for a bit before it finally kicked in. I have a picture of that too, but I'm saving it for my autobiography.

The important bit was that my son and I shared a moment of magic, and once I hit the ground and got myself untangled from the harness, he gave me a big hug and said he was proud of me. It made me cry.

Oh, and the bruises are just now fading.


On the way home from Utah, I did a little shopping. Here's the receipt:

If you don't see anything interesting, you're not looking hard enough.

Shameless plug

Sue Corbett's MG novel, Free Baseball, is now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at your favorite local bookstore. Or even a local bookstore that you loathe, a bookstore so heinous that it keeps you up at night, lying in a cold sweat as you gnash your teeth and swear vengeance. A bookstore whose very existence drains the life force from your soul and--

Okay, you get the idea. Free Baseball is available darned near anywhere, and Sue writes real good, so if you love baseball, rush out now in a buying frenzy and get yourself some Free Baseball. Even if you hate baseball, and lie awake at night in a cold sweat as you gnash your teeth and swear vengeance--dangit, I'm doing it again. Okay, the thing is, you don't have to love baseball to love this story. It's not one of those gawdawful Chip Hilton things from the '60s where people are always spitting and adjusting their cups way too much if you know what I mean and I think you do. Corbett has written herself a real good story.

Look at these reviews:

“Corbett deftly weaves a moving coming-of-age story with a sweet, satisfying conclusion.” --Kirkus Reviews

“(A) solid and satisfying story . . . readers will want to stick with the tale till the last pitch is thrown.” --Publishers Weekly

"I'm gonna read it, and I'm still the only guy in the history of baseball named Mookie." --Mookie Wilson, coach for the NY Mets

"I'm gonna read it too, and I'm still the only guy in the history of baseball named Boog." --Boog Powell, former Baltimore Oriole

"Yeah, I know my name sounds like a stripper but I'm still gonna read Free Baseball." --Coco LaBoy, former Montreal Expo and not a stripper

So there you have it. Free Baseball has entered the building. Now I'm going to go lie in bed in a cold sweat and swear vengeance, etc. etc. because I'm bitter that my book, Discount Curling, has been rejected 213 times. The fools.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

What is an author?

Quick takes:

March Madness: It's on!
University of Illinois: Lost their first-round game!
My diet: Okay so far!

Why it's cool to order stuff from CD Baby

For one thing, you get this email:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved 'Bon Voyage!' to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Tuesday, February 6th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as 'Customer of the Year'. We're all exhausted but can't wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,
Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby

I like a company with a sense of humor. The world would be a happier place if more companies were like CD Baby.

My son the fencer

No, he does not install fencing. He goes to a military prep school even though he doesn't have any real interest in the military. I think he realized that he needed more discipline in his life and a military school would be a good place for that. At some point in his first year, he discovered fencing, the kind where people poke at each other with swords.

The season is over now and my son is home for spring break. He has been teasing me about a surprise and today he handed it over: a plaque announcing that my youngest spawn has won the Coaches' Award for best freshman fencer.

I am thrilled he has found an interest that doesn't involve blowing up aliens or otherwise staring at a TV screen. I am touched that he gave his award to me. Trouble is, he demanded that I put the award in a place where I would be sure to see it every day. The result:

I hope my agent will understand if the last few lines of every page I write are a little garbled.

Author! Author!

What is an author? Is an author different from a writer? If so, is one better than the other?

Beats me. I used to hang out with a woman who wrote instruction manuals for John Deere. She composed such epic verbiage as "Be careful not to engage the driveshaft during this operation or serious injury will result."

Technically, she's a writer. In fact, she's a technical writer. But is she an author? When you get down to it, there's no reason why this woman couldn't put on black clothes and a beret and hang out in bars, telling beatniks that people all over the world read her work, omitting the part that her best effort was a 22-page treatise on setting the proper angle of the deflector plates in the intake chutes of the John Deere RD-566T combine.

What about the guy who writes the blurbs on the back of baseball cards? "In 1994, Jim Russell pitched a one-hitter against the Houston Astros while wearing his pants backward!" or "Before joining the Cardinals staff, Elroy liked to stalk actresses!" That's certainly writing.

Of course, there's the unknown but brilliant person who created this breathless passage: "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." Terse, and yet evocative. A strong voice at a time when strong voices are desperately needed. But there is tragedy here, in the form of those who felt compelled to keep repeating until they had to be forcibly removed from their showers, so locked into their Sisyphusian chore that they begged to be put out of their misery.

That, my friends, is powerful writing. If the unknown creator of those words isn't a author, then none of us are.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The Orb of Doom/Flash Fiction

Quick takes:

Spring: Almost here!
Barry Bonds: Jerk!
Gino's East frozen pizza: Awesome!

The Orb

The object to the right is a gift from a dear friend. At least I think she is. This thing has caused nothing but trouble.

At first I thought it might be a disco ball. I tested this theory by hanging it from the ceiling and blasting Bee Gees songs, but it didn't feel right. None of us wanted to put on doubleknit clothes and platform shoes and do the Hustle. Plus, my neighbor Mr. Bushida called the police because he didn't want to hear Bee Gees songs at three in the morning, so that experiment was a wash.

It could be a badly made soccer ball, but when I kicked it I hurt my foot and the orb made a dent in the ceiling. I then took it outside to kick it, but that only resulted in another visit by the police because Mr. Bushida got mad about the hole in his picture window.

A flash of inspiration gave me the idea that it might be a bowling ball. True, it had no finger holes, but I took it into the street and gave it a good roll. Unfortunately, Mr. Bushida came down his driveway at the same moment, riding his new (and expensive) crosstrainer bike. He freaked out when he saw the orb coming at him and didn't see his wife pulling into the driveway. I mean, I'm sorry they had a head-on collision but I could hardly be blamed for that, even though the policeman who arrived shortly afterward got pretty red in the face when he yelled at me.

Finally I decided it was an Orb of Doom. It looks like an Orb of Doom, especially if you shine a red light on it. Certainly it had caused a fair amount of trouble since its arrival, what with the visits by the police and Mr. Bushida screaming death threats.

So what to do with it? I was pretty sure the trash collector wouldn't take an Orb of Doom. (They won't even take lawn waste!) I didn't want to put it the garage sale stuff because I didn't want to feel responsible if it turned one of the neighbors into an evil fiend or a Republican.

So, I'm stuck with the Orb of Doom for now. I put it in the bathroom linen closet, under a pile of guest towels. Even though I can't see it, I can feel its evil presence, which makes going to the bathroom a tense situation. Who knows when the Orb will next decide to spread its evil?

Email of the day:

Dear Dr. Missy,

What is flash fiction?

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

That's an easy one. Flash fiction is written about Ed "Flash" Steinmetter, an independent insurance agent in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Using sophisticated instruments, the workings of which are a heavily guarded secret, scientists have determined that Ed is, without a doubt, the most boring person in the world.

Normally, this wouldn't be a problem, except that Ed's boringness is so profound that it began sucking "interest features," as the scientists call them, from other people. First, the people on Ed's street became uncommonly boring, then it spread to his neighborhood, and within a
short time, all of Cedar Rapids. Alarmed, the scientists pondered erecting an inpenetrable wall around the town to keep Ed's boringness under check, but no one took them seriously until it was too late.

With the effects of Ed's sheer lack of personality speading across the country, the scientists realized that the only way to stop the onslaught was to graft a personality onto Ed. This is done through the writing of short stories, in which Ed engages in such activities as wrestling polar
bears, making love to exotic Russian spies, traveling into space to fight two-headed extraterrestrials, surviving a knife fight with Martha Stewart, and so forth.

Of course, this method is highly unscientific, but the millions of flash fiction stories on the Interweb do seem to be working to keep Ed's dull aura at bay. Unfortunately, it's not a foolproof system. Just the other day, a man in Altamont, Illinois, screamed that his head had filled with images of horribly tedious insurance seminars. Then a woman in Flagstaff, Arizona had to be hospitalized when she began hearing the minutes from the Cedar Rapids city council meeting (the one where they voted on which color to paint the city fire hydrants).

It's too late to build a wall around Ed, as the genie is already out of the bottle, so to speak. Until scientists can create a laser of some kind that will keep Ed's boringness under control, the diligent people of the Interweb continue cranking out a vast amount of flash fiction. I have
contributed to the cause, with my story of how Ed went back in time and beat the snot out of Marshall Tito. We must all do our part! The consequences are too great to contemplate.


Monday, February 19, 2007

Rejection Letters

Quick takes:

Snow: Sucks!
Cold: Sucks!
Remodeling: Sucks!

The oddest board book ever!

That's a bit of a lie, actually. This book is just one of a series called Baby Be of Use, published by the fine folks at McSweeney's. They do nifty stuff.

The blurb from Amazon: Many people are parents, and many parents are thirsty. Yet too many parents allow their infant sons and daughters to lie about idly: napping, drinking milk, and whatnot. Why not put them to work? Observe how tots enjoy the shapes and colors, all the while learning how to mix a variety of basic cocktails. Thanks, Baby!

I never taught my sons to do anything weird when they were babies. My youngest son, when he was but a toddler, developed the weird habit of breaking into a butt-shaking dance whenever he heard "Bad Boys," the theme from Cops. For a long time I worried that he might become a Rastafarian, but instead he became enamored with Alice Cooper, which must go over great at his military school. We currently have a deal that if he makes the honor roll, I have to hire Alice Cooper to play a concert in our back yard. I'm not sure how Alice would feel about that. I'm pretty sure the neighbors would hate it.

Email of the day:

Dear Dr. Missy,

I get a lot of rejection letters. Where do they all come from?

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

You think you get a lot of rejection letters? Hah! I just talked to my agent and she said that in 2006 I received 944 rejections. That's bad enough right there, but 765 of those rejections were from publishers who hadn't been sent any of my stuff. It appears that they heard about my work and sent preemptive rejections in case my agent decided to send them something.

All rejections come from a large, low-slung black building on the outskirts of Shumway, Illinois. There's no signage on the building, and the few windows are blacked out and covered with bars. A 12-foot tall electrified steel fence topped with razor wire surrounds the property. The perimeter is patrolled by heavily armed guards and attack dogs. Three Apache helicopters armed with Hellfire heat seeking missiles and dual Gatling guns constantly hover over the building. There is only one entry gate, and anyone who wishes to pass through is strip searched and their cars examined with minute care. Sometimes the cars are completely dismantled right there at the gate. Sometimes the cars are set on fire.

Entry to the building itself is gained only by having one's retina patterns scanned and then inserting an electronic card impregnated with the user's DNA into a solid titanium lock. After that, there's a cavity search and the admittee is forced to sing a popular show tune in a minor key.

It's called the Black Hole. It's the place where all submissions go, no matter to whom they are sent. Every submission, large and small, good and bad, ends up in the Black Hole. No one knows what goes on inside. The only people seen entering and exiting the building are a few elderly women and a short, heavily-built man wearing one of those spiked German army helmets from WWI.

There are rumors that in 1998, an author managed to gain entry to the Black Hole. He was caught almost immediately. Soon after, the air around Shumway was filled with his agonized screams. Many residents say they can no longer sleep at night because they can't get those screams out of their heads.

They say the president wanted to visit the facility but was turned down. So was the vice president, and the governor of Illinois. Interestingly, David Hyde-Pierce, star of TV's "Frazier" was allowed inside, but no one knows what he did there. It was later reported that he was treated at a hospital in Funkhouser, Illinois for a badly infected paper cut.

All of the trees within fifty yards of the Black Hole have spontaneously burst into flame. A catfish was caught in a nearby pond that was normal in every way. This was a serious problem, as Shumway had long advertised itself as the "home of the three-eyed catfish pond."

Take my word, Linda. The Black Hole is an evil place.

Your friend,
Dr. Missy

A note about the CD of the Week. Every time I look at the cover, I hear this conversation in my head:

Man: Hello, Mr. Gibson, how are you getting along?
Mr. G: Just fine. How about you?
Man: Couldn't be better. Say, what's your son Harry doing these days?
Mr. G: He's a hipster.
Man: Ah. Is this a good thing to be?
Mr. G: Damned if I know.


Friday, February 9, 2007

How to Write Dialogue

Quick takes:

Belgian waffles: Hanging on at #1!
Cold weather: Stinks!
Going on a diet: Really stinks!

Many people write to me asking for advice and sometimes I don't think it through very well. I'm terribly sorry about the advice I recently gave to a woman wanting to save her marriage. Here's what you do, I wrote. Get yourself a wig, a bag of adult diapers, a couple of dozen garbage bags, fifty feet of rubber tubing, and a BB gun. Nature will take care of the rest.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Dang. I feel horrible.

Okay, writing stuff. More than anything, I love writing dialogue and I think I'm pretty good at it. Thing is, the dialogue in books is nothing like real life. Take, for example, this bit of typical conversation that happened at the breakfast table some years ago. It features my sons Sean and David, my partner, the Resident Brit, and myself. I was fooling around with a micro recorder that day and captured this:

Sean (singing): Bob the Builder, can we build it, Bob the Builder, yes we can...
David: Are you gonna eat that bagel?
Brit (fighting with Scooter the bull terrier, who's come inside muddy): Get down! You're not going to track mud eveywhere.
Sean: Go Scooter! Beat the British!
Me: Eat your cereal.
David: Are you gonna eat that bagel or not?
Sean: Bob the Builder, can we build it? Bob the Builder, yes we--
Brit: Dammit, Scooter! Quit biting me!
Me: Sean! Eat your cereal.
Sean: I didn't take my medicine until just now.
David: I'm gonna eat this bagel.
Brit: Scooter! Down!
Sean: Can we go to Chicago now?
David: I need to get on the computer to see the Rumble Robots website.
Me: Sean, eat your cereal or something horrible will happen to you.
Brit: Great. I've got mud all over me.
David (singing): Dave Letterman, your TV friend!
Sean: I need some paper to write a story.
Me: It better be about a little boy who eats his cereal.
David: Where's that CD with the Monkees concert on it?

If I wanted to a win a Newbery, that scene would go like this:

Brit: Boys, I have bad news. Your mother is dead.
David: I didn't do it.
Sean: Can we bury her in the back yard?
Brit: Now you'll have to live with your horrible relatives who will beat you and feed you scraps.
Sean: I'm not going to school anymore. I'm going to act out my anguish in antisocial ways.
David: Me, too. Plus, I'll become withdrawn and moody.
Sean: Hey, I said I was going to be antisocial first.
David: Did not.
Sean: Did too.
David: Can we play a Monkees CD at her funeral?
Brit: I suppose the dog will have to be put down. I never liked that dog anyway.
Sean: I just set fire to my Bob the Builder set. Now who's antisocial?
David: Hah! I'm going to eat all the bagels to repress my anger.
Brit: What's burning?
Sean: I threw my cereal against the wall.
David: Big deal. I got my bagel to stick to the ceiling.
Brit: I'm going off to a seedy bar to get drunk.
David (singing): Dave Letterman, your TV friend!

See how that works? Of course you do.

Website of the day: Kitty Goes Potty: Watch These Cats Poop

The name of the website pretty much says it all. I especially like the part where people rank the pictures of cats sitting on toilets doing their business: Oh yes, this is definitely a four-star picture. Much better than that other one.

Remember, I don't make these things, I just report.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

How to Get an Agent

Quick takes:

Belgian waffles: Still tasty!
Chicago Bears: Still proud of you!
Mayor of Boston: Needs a brain transplant

It is snowing in central Illinois today. That just stinks. I should be in the warm climes of Florida throwing jellyfish at tourists. We don't have jellyfish here, nor tourists or warmth. There's nothing quite as satisfying as watching a drunken tourist run around in circles with a Man 'o War stuck to his face. "Yaaaah! Yaaaah! Yaaaah!" he screams. "That'll teach you to pee in my driveway," I tell him.

It is tourist season, after all. Be vewy, vewy quiet. I'm hunting tourwists. Hehheheheheh.

Just received a shipment from Amazon UK. It contained a Terry Pratchett book, THE CARPET PEOPLE, an MG book by Dominic Barker, BLART II: THE BOY WHO WAS WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE--OR BOTH, and a new and massive Michael Palin tome, DIARIES 1969-1979: THE PYTHON YEARS. The box got here faster from the UK than it took me to send one book to my son at his school in Indiana. He decided he couldn't live without his copy of THE LAST TEMPTATION OF ALICE COOPER by Neil Gaiman. Strange book. I was iffy about it but my son is a fiend for anything about Alice Cooper.

I am currently reading BORN TO ROCK, by Gordon Korman. I met him a couple of years ago at a book signing and we had a nice chat. He said that his books had sold over a million copies and I realized I had started to drool a bit. I like to read first person books when I'm writing in first person, as I am with SUPER! If anyone wants to recommend a first person MG or YA that isn't about dead mothers, please do so.

I just finished a nice scene where my hero has to run away, and so he flies to the top of the Ferris wheel at the Navy Pier in Chicago. He sits in the top gondola and broods because being a superhero has really screwed up his life. Later, my hero lands on the pier and meets an old man who gives him a Life Lesson and ten bucks.

Quite a pleasing scene, if I do say so myself. One of those quiet scenes my agent is after me to write, because I'd rather write about riots and chaos and stuff exploding.

And now, the email of the day:

Dear Dr. Missy,

I want an agent but it's so hard to get one! They're slippery and slimy and have glands located near the base of their tails that can emit a painful electrical shock. What can I do?

Linda (not my real name)

Dear Linda,

You are messed up. You're talking about electric eels, not a literary agent. What is wrong with you?

In reality, agents are shy creatures who can often be found in heavily wooded areas. It is possible to capture one, but only with the right bait. I recommend using a finely blended coffee and a pastry of some sort. It is important not to touch these items with your bare skin because you might leave a scent that could scare the agent away.

My technique for capturing an agent begins with walking softly through the woods, making cooing sounds so as not to appear threatening. This is key—most agents are afraid of loud noises and will skitter away in panic if you aren’t careful.

I remember the day I first spotted an agent. I’d been walking though a forest for quite some time and was nearly ready to give up and go home for a bottle of wine or two.

Then I saw her! She lurked a few meters away, her wide, white eyes staring at me through a gap in a hedgerow. I caught my breath, willing myself to remain calm. Moving slowly so as not to startle the agent, I removed a cup of fresh latte and a chocolate éclair from my backpack. I set them on the ground and then moved to a safe distance.

It is important to be patient and not make any sudden moves. I found a seat on a tree trunk and watched as the agent sniffed the air, and after a couple of false starts, warily approached my offering. She gave me a quick glance and then greedily consumed the éclair, washing it down with the latte. Then she scuttled back into the undergrowth.

I returned to that spot in the forest every day for two months, always leaving fresh bait. I discovered that the agent particularly liked iced pastries with cream fillings and double-shot espressos. I gave her what she wanted, slowly gaining her trust.

Over time, I was able to move a bit closer to her, little by little, until the glorious day came when I held out my hand so she could approach and get my scent. After another month, she allowed me to stroke her head as I made soothing sounds while she gulped down yet another espresso.

My patience paid off. Six months after I first encountered the agent, she approached without hesitation, prancing happily in a circle around me, nudging my backpack for the goodies she knew it contained.

Finally the right moment came. As the agent sat next to me, her mouth wrapped around a chocolate-filled Bavarian. I carefully reached into my pocket and withdrew a blowgun preloaded with a tranquilizer dart.

She never saw it coming. I bound her hands and feet with soft rope, and with the help of another author, we attached her to a pole and carried her back to my truck.

After a year in captivity the agent finally signed me on as a client. It took a great deal of dedication, not to mention a small fortune spent at Starbucks, but it was all worth it.

Your friend,
Dr. Missy

Now I have to go outside and shovel the (*&$(*!)(! snow.


Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Perils of Being a Writer

Quick takes:

The mayor of Boston is an idiot.
Go Bears!
Belgian waffles are tasty.

You hear writers go on and on about the perils of their work:

"I have butt pimples from sitting in my chair too much!"
"I have writer's block and I've fallen into a deep clinical depression from which there is no escape!"
"I spend so much so time alone that I no longer know how to socialize! Yesterday I forgot how to shake hands and ended up licking a man's nose instead!"
"I can't sleep. I toss and turn in a cold sweat while my characters invade my mind, demanding that I include another dead mother in my story so I can win awards!"

Big deal. How many writers have to do deal with this:

The attractive beige thing in the lower left corner is my knee. The large black thing in the center is Scooter, a Staffordshire bull terrier. He weighs 95 pounds and has approximately 342 teeth. The thing is, bull terriers like to show affection by gnawing on their people. Not hard enough to draw blood. Well, not much. But it is difficult to write while a bull terrier happily chews on one body part or another.

It was worse when he was a puppy and had razor-sharp baby teeth. He was especially fond of biting toes, so we quickly learned to sit cross-legged to avoid the scourge of Scabby Toes. Not even Gold Bond medicated powder can help that.

Back to my original point. I don't want to hear your complaints about impacted butt pimples or crushing personal depression. You try writing a sensitive and potentially award-winning book about a mother being run down and mangled by a Zamboni machine while a large animal chews your flesh. Yeah, I thought so.

I'm still stuck in bed with a wonky back. This is payback from my body for those years when I stopped being responsible and quit my job to go to Hawaii and windsurf. Learning to windsurf involves a fair amount of heavy lifting, along with being thrashed by waves, stung by jellyfish, and running into the occasional yacht. They're all painful.

If you go to,27 you can download a free copy of "Bear Down Chicago Bears" by the Chicago Symphony and Chrous, conducted by Sir Georg Solti. Whenever the Bears win, I blast this song at top volume and sing along. I have forced my children to learn the words so they can sing along as well. It's a stirring moment, let me tell you. Go Bears!


Thursday, February 1, 2007


Hey, that's original. Hello, indeed. I'm mostly doing this because I'm stuck in bed after wrecking my back again and I'm bored. I'm sure my hordes of fans would like to hear that I hurt myself while engaged in a fierce struggle with my next-door neighbor, Mr. Bushida, or that I started a riot at Barnes and Noble and hurt myself trying to escape, or that I had a terrible accident with the anti-tourist jellyfish launcher.

The truth is, I was doing housework. There, I said it. Plain old housework with no monsters, enraged editors, speara guns, or exploding baristas. But boy, is my office clean! I shall post a picture of it in all its glory soon.

Here's the brave part. Even though I am wracked with hideous pain, I have managed to do my day's quota of writing, five pages to be exact. My current project is called SUPER! and it's about a boy who gains the ability to turn into an adult with amazing powers. Except that nothing happens like he expects, and he finds his life complicated in ways he never imagined. In other words, it's quite dark, a theme that appeals to me right now. Also, it doesn't appear to be a common theme for middle grade superhero novels. I've read a few, and they seem to take a lighthearted and fantastic view of the whole thing. I, on the other hand, shall take the more sinister and realistic road.

In other news, my big people book (as ace book reviewer Sue Corbett calls it) has had a couple of nice months, sales-wise. I'm not sure why, but people are buying it and that makes my agent and me happy. Not happy to the point where we've ordered up solid gold Ferraris, but happier than we were. No, I'm not going to say what book it is. I didn't spend all that time thinking up a cool pen name just to give the whole thing away.

A good MG book that I recently read: GROOVES: A KIND OF MYSTERY by Kevin Brockmeier. Interesting characters, weird plot, and lots of dry humor that had me chuckling. There's moist humor, too. That would the opposite of dry humor, right?

Another good MG: LARKLIGHT, by Philip Reeve. Jolly fun, that one. Lots of space travel, lots of pirates. I suspect that some of the humor will go over the heads of the target audience, as Reeve likes to tweak the British empire-building attitudes of the 19th century, but still, lots of action and colorful characters.

And now, today's email:

Dear Dr. Missy,

Sometimes your posts really scare me. Why is that?

Linda (not my real name)


Dear Linda,

They don't call me the Hunter S. Thompson of children's literature for nothing. Ha ha! Seriously, I have no idea why you are afraid of my posts. It's not like I know where you live or anything. Well, actually I do, but I've got the bad back thing going on and I have to stay in bed, so you're safe. Unless you read this, and then you'll be even more scared. I don't know what to do about that.

Your friend,
Dr. Missy

Okay, that's it for today! If I can figure out how to post pictures, then we'll really have some fun!